It’s sometimes hard to remember that Arrow started off with one man and a little brown notebook. Over time, Oliver Queen’s vigilante world became noticeably more crowded with code names and costumes: Canary, Arsenal, Black Canary, Speedy, and, after last night’s episode, maybe Canary again.
But despite the addition of these masked sidekicks, it’s the human connection between Oliver and his original partners — military man John Diggle and computer expert Felicity Smoak — that was and remains the heartbeat of the show. They’re the Xander and Willow to Oliver’s Buffy. (And if there aren’t academic papers comparing Oliver Queen to Buffy Summers already written, then please, somebody fix it.)
“Restoration” is ostensibly about bringing Sara Lance back from the grave, but what’s really being repaired in this episode is the “Original Team Arrow” dynamic, which took a hit last season — first as between Oliver and Felicity, and more recently between Oliver and Diggle. “Feels like old times,” Felicity sighs with glee as the three embark on a mission alone, and it most certainly does. “Restoration” had the energy and thrills and, dare I say, fun of the first two seasons of Arrow.
The episode opens with Diggle and Oliver in a lumberyard, working a lead on the Ghosts. Thanks to a clever sequence in which Felicity remotely controls a large construction crane, Diggle catches a Ghost and manages to rip out his tooth before the Ghost can bite into a cyanide capsule. Although the Ghost eventually gets away, Diggle and Oliver bring the tooth back for analysis. At the Arrow lair, once-aspiring dental hygienist Felicity seizes on the opportunity to help Oliver and Diggle mend fences via margaritas. To Oliver’s disappointment, Dig has other squad goals — namely, his family. But when Diggle returns to his apartment, his family’s not there; instead, an A.R.G.U.S. agent is waiting in his living room with some news about who hired Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton to kill Diggle’s brother: A woman named Mina Fayad, and lucky for Dig, she’s just arrived in Star City.
Fayad is in town to see fellow H.I.V.E. member Damien Darhk. But like any decent visitor, she brings a welcome gift: Double Down (J.R. Bourne), who’s here to hunt and kill the Green Arrow for Darhk. He’s a metahuman covered in special playing-card tattoos that he can peel off of his skin and use to throw at and slice up his victims. (His weapon is essentially a deadly paper cut, but I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. That really is one of my nightmare ways to go.) Double Down’s low-key mercenary vibe is a playful contrast to Darhk’s controlled code. Not that Darhk can’t be loose himself: He outright giggles at watching Double Down demonstrate his card “trick” by killing one of Darhk’s disappointing minions. It’s best to avoid being on the receiving end of that dude’s performance reviews.
It’s also best not to be on the receiving end of Felicity Smoak’s truth tea. She’s had it with Dig and Oliver’s strained relationship, especially since their failure to communicate left them both vulnerable to injury out in the field. She tells the two to work out their issues. Nay, she demands it. Emily Bett Rickards takes Felicity’s fierceness up to 11 in this scene, and why wouldn’t she when the two men she holds most dear are risking their lives by stubbornly feuding? And when Oliver tries to interject, she shuts him down faster than the Flash. Oliver looks at her stunned, but also seems kind of turned on by her dominance. (Seriously, you two, Dig is still in the room.).
Felicity’s prodding works, as Oliver and Dig start to hash out their issues. Dig reiterates his frustration at Oliver’s deception last season. Dig confesses that he’s not even sure he would take a bullet for Oliver anymore, which is the lowest of low “bro” blows. Oliver understands Dig’s position, but has his own frustrations, in that Dig won’t give Oliver an opportunity to make amends. Until, that is, Oliver inadvertently reveals that Fayad — the woman who hired Deadshot — is somehow connected to Double Down. This leads Dig to admit to Oliver that he has been investigating H.I.V.E. for the past two years in secret and that Oliver might be able to help. These scenes between David Ramsey and Stephen Amell, who have such a natural rapport, were genuine highlights in terms of acting and character development. It’s tricky to convincingly play or write two alpha males having a heart-to-heart understanding without delving into Hallmark territory on one end, or gender stereotyping on the other.
While Oliver and Diggle patch things up, Felicity heads to Palmer Technologies to ask her new work buddy Curtis Holt to help analyze one of Double Down’s cards, which Felicity claims she got in a casino. (“Poker is my jam,” she explains, rather unconvincingly.) Curtis is not buying that, exactly, but he is willing to help look into the card. He eventually discovers that the card acts as a homing device to the rest of the card pack, which Felicity is not thrilled about. Sure enough, seconds later, Double Down comes in, cards a-flyin’ and looking for his missing card and the Green Arrow. Felicity jumps into action, escorting a freaked Curtis down a secret elevator that leads to … the Arrow’s lair. (So that’s where they’ve been this whole time!) She quickly explains to Curtis that she’s working with the Green Arrow, grabs a semiautomatic weapon, and starts shooting (eyes closed and head turned away, obviously). To top it all off, she’s doing this all while wearing leopard-print heels. She manages to scare Double Down away with the gunfire, but now he knows about location of the Green Arrow’s lair, which means it’s time to move the gang again.
Dig and Oliver work together (yay!) to track Double Down, who seems genuinely irked that they won’t just let him skip town. Double Down throws one of his deadly cards at Dig, but Oliver blocks it with his body just in time. “You took a bullet for me,” Dig says, in amazement. “Actually, they were metahuman tattoo playing cards,” deadpans Oliver. And … the bromance is back on. Too bad it’s too late to find out any more from Nayad. On Darhk’s order, Double Down killed Nayad before Dig had the chance to interrogate her about his brother.
Not that anyone stays dead on Arrow for too long. Laurel and Thea head to Nanda Parbat with Sara’s casket to play Weekend at Meryln’s. Laurel’s motivation in taking the rotting corpse of her sister and throwing her into a pit of magical waters that is known to have terrible side effects is questionable on every level — morally, logically. (I mean, commercially, it makes sense because Caity Lotz’s Sara will be joining new Arrow spinoff Legends of Tomorrow in 2016.). The problem is compounded by Laurel’s belief that her father and Nyssa would both be thrilled by this choice. Whatever hope I had for Laurel’s character for this season has vanished, and it’s only the third episode.
But not all is disappointing in Nanda Parbat. There’s the delight that is Nyssa and Malcom “sparring” — both with swords and words — as well as some meaty Malcom-Thea daddy-daughter scenes, in which Malcolm tells Thea that killing is the only way to satisfy her pit-induced “bloodlust.” Being the doting father that he is, Malcom offers her two of his henchmen to Thea. Thea is repulsed by having killed them and wants to leave. Malcolm makes a Hail Mary and says that he will make up for his transgressions to Thea by bringing Sara back to life in the Lazarus Pit.
They lower Sara’s body in the pit and out jumps a writhing, feral Sara. To no one’s surprise but Laurel’s, Sara is not really “Sara,” and they’re forced to chain her, King Kong–style. An understandably angry Nyssa takes her revenge by pouring some kind of chemical into the Lazarus Pit, destroying its life-saving powers: No more hot-tub life machine.
Still undercover, Oliver tries to earn the trust of his new supervisor by convincing him not to kill all the forced laborers, instead introducing him to the technique of torture. Using this newfound trust, Oliver helps one female laborer escape.
- Loved the too-brief scene of Original Team Arrow having a casual drink together; such a necessary and welcomed sense of normalcy.
- Felicity actually refers to them as “OTA”!
- The Felicity and Curtis scenes were spot-on this week. Great chemistry and sharp writing. Curtis’s skepticism at Felicity’s story reminded me a lot of the white lies Oliver used to tell Felicity back in season one, before she learned of his identity. Plus, an introduction to the T-Spheres!
- “Don’t sound so surprised,” Felicity says to Oliver, who can’t believe that Felicity took on Double Down by herself.
- Getting rid of the Lazarus Pit powers was a smart move; makes death feel more high-stakes again.
- “Sister in law,” Nyssa greeting Thea.
- Oliver’s face when Felicity admits that she thinks Diggle is more “evolved” than Oliver.
- I’ve been enjoying the interplay between Darhk and these lower-rung villains.
- Questions that linger: What is going on with Felicity’s phone? What is “Genesis”?
MISSING THE MARK
There was at least one scene where David Ramsey delivered a line with his face-mask closed, making it difficult to understand what he was saying.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (but this is my Arrow jam!!)
Come find me on Twitter and we can enjoy a nice cup of Felicity truth tea together.